New regional grain body to unify grain trade

A new private sector driven regional body, the Southern Africa Grain Network (SAGNET) was registered at the beginning of the year to unify the grain value chain in southern Africa.

According to Mariana Purnell, general manager of grain at the South African business chamber, Agbiz, the first focus area is the standardisation of processes and the harmonization of grading regulations.

Purnell says to allow participation of trade it is important to develop a regional market information system that provides for reliable crop estimates. It must also give information regarding farmer deliveries and imports and exports to estimate each country’s supply and demand situation per commodity.

“Inter- and intra-Africa trade has become very important for all the countries on the continent. Improving the performance of the agricultural sector is seen by many stakeholders as critical in achieving accelerated economic growth and poverty reduction in Eastern and Southern Africa.”

SAGNET membership will include private sector value chain actors from Southern Africa countries drawn from four sectors of the value chain, i.e. production, processing, trading and service providers.

SAGNET will eventually consist of 15 country private sector representatives who can invite organisations, individuals and private companies from their own countries.

“Participation by the various actors will be open, voluntary and based on agreement on a common agenda,” Purnell said.

The first SAGNET board will be headed by Jacob Mwale from Zambia. He will be supported by Daniel Gerson (Mozambique), Mariana Purnell (South Africa), Grace Mhango (Malawi) and Julius Wambura (Tanzania).

SAGNET was registered as a not-for-profit organisation in January 2017 in Lusaka, Zambia, also the current location of the head office.

The organisation is supported by the UK government through the FoodTrade East and Southern Africa (ESA) programme, which is implemented by DAI. FoodTrade ESA is a five-year trade enhancement and promotion programme focusing on staple food crops. The programme works with private sector and relevant institutions to improve storage, inputs and service markets, information and coordination mechanisms as well as policy and regulation with the aim to get more people trading in regional staple food markets.

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